Have you heard a machine sneeze?

Have you ever heard a machine sneeze?

I have. Repeatedly.

It comes as a side effect to being a robotics engineer, hearing machines make strange noises one wouldn't ordinarily expect. Like -- a sneeze.

Alright... it wasn't actually a sneeze.  It was the pneumatics system responding to a mechanical actuation. For days. It would seem that working in the same unchanging environment with the same machine whose behaviors evolve throughout development does encourage my literary personifying imagination. To my ears, I hear sounds like the sneezing that comes with bad allergies. But I suppose that pressure release valves perform a similar function to sneezing -- sneezing is, to some extent, just a form of rapid temporary air expulsion, is it not?

Though these are just the musings of the very particular genre of literarily interested robotics engineer that I know I have become, any engineer gets to know their machine, design, or system so well that it seems to come alive. These systems, computers, or robots seem to be misbehaving when an unplanned feature comes to light during the development process. Any developer of technology can relate to this statement.  The systems we work on, are not alive, or actually mis-behaving in the real sense of the word, I can assure you. If it weren't for the mantra every one of us as software developers has in the back of our minds, "the computer did exactly what you told it to do", our system's rates of software bugs to fix would produce the undoubtable appearance of misbehaving. (Note of reassurance to the non-developer... this is no cause for alarm, bug fixes are simply a part of the development process for every technological device. I am writing this uneventfully from an airplane, on my tablet, after all...)

Last year I wrote a review of the young adult novel Mechanica that I would like to share with you now. It has come to my mind again as I work on my current robotic pursuits -- reminded of the personifying spirits Betsy Cornwell gave the little characters of Mechanica. Please enjoy these comments. I'd highly recommend this novel to anyone (young adult or young at heart!) interested in what I found to be a creative, positive, feministic spin on the classic Cinderella fairytale.


If you read it, do let me know what you think!


Robotically Yours,